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Another Asaram Bapu rape case witness mysteriously vanishes: SC sends lawyer-petitioner to HC

Curious: Where do all Asaram witnesses go?
Curious: Where do all Asaram witnesses go?

A Supreme Court bench comprising of justices Anil R Dave and Adarsh Kumar Goel asked Bennet Castelino, an advocate and the petitioner-in-person, to approach the high court of Allahabad to order a CBI probe into the mysterious disappearance of Rahul Sachan.

Sachan is a key prosecution witness in the Asaram Bapu case.

The bench also requested the high court to look into it and dispose of it on merits, if such a petition is filed.

The bench allowed the petitioner to withdraw his petition from the Supreme Court for the purpose of filing a similar petition in the Allahabad high court.

Sachan, who was stabbed in Jodhpur court on 13 February 2015 during the hearing of the Asaram Bapu case, has reportedly disappeared since 25 November, 2015. Sachan was the personal assistant of Asaram and claimed to have personal knowledge of his activities.

Asaram, considered as a spiritual leader by many of his devotees, has been charged with rape of a minor under the Prevention of Child Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POSCO) in November 2013, and has been under judicial custody in Jodhpur jail.

Asaram’s son, Narayan Sai was also arrested on 4 December 2013 and was accused of having raped two sisters from Surat, according to their complaints.

Asaram’s wife, Lakshmi, and their daughter Bharti were also arrested in this case, but later released on bail.

Four other murder mysteries?

The case has witnessed several mysterious killings or attempts to kill key prosecution witnesses.

Amrut Prajapati, a former Ayurveda physician to Asaram succumbed to bullet injuries on 10 June 2014.

Akhil Gupta, another witness in the rape case in which Asaram is accused, was shot dead by unidentified men in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh.

Mahendra Chawla, prosecution witness in all three cases against Asaram and his son, was shot and critically wounded in Sanoli village, Panipat, Haryana, on 13 May, 2015. He was assaulted after his testimony in court.

His assailants fled on motorcycle, apparently thinking that he was dead.

Chawla was the personal assistant of accused Narayan Sai Harpalani since 2001 and resigned in 2005, and he had, along with Sachan, filed an affidavit seeking protection in the Supreme Court in the petition filed by Castelino last year.

On 25 July, 2015, Kirpal Singh, another key witness, was killed.

What to do?

Castelino sought a CBI probe, as the police investigation into Sachan’s disappearance has failed to yield any results.

Castelino is an overseas Indian citizen, practicing law in New Zealand and India.

Last year, he filed a public interest petition in the Supreme Court (writ petition (criminal) No 156 of 2015) seeking protection to witnesses in the case.

Sachan’s affidavit of 1 August 2015 was attached to that petition. Sachan, in his affidavit, had apprehended threat to his life.

According to the petition, Sachan had been coordinating with other witnesses to ensure they depose as witnesses without fear.

Castelino’s 2015 petition was filed seeking police protection. While disposing of this petition, the Supreme Court had on 14 September 2015 granted police protection as and when the witnesses apply for the same at the trial courts.

Sachan had police protection from Uttar Pradesh police by virtue of this order, and yet went missing. As the pending cases against Asaram cover two States, namely, Gujarat and Rajasthan, the Uttar Pradesh police, it appears, has expressed its inability to track Sachan.

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